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The mushroom hunter; Delicious and deadly fungi can be found in autumn woods. Alison Young met the man who can tell them apart.

Byline: Alison Young

MIKE LAWTON is a man who certainly knows his shaggy ink caps from his puffballs.

For the senior warden at Bryngarw Country Park has been fascinated by all sorts of mushrooms ever since he was a young lad.

Around nine years ago he started fungal foray walks at Bryngarw and tomorrow you can join him and help search the grounds of the country park for mushrooms and toadstools.

s. "Most people buy their mushrooms from the supermarket and don't give them a second thought, but they are in fact very important to us," explained Mike, 56.

"Their importance lies in the fact that they cause decay which is vital in the ecosystem as all rotting is caused by fungi. The mushroom is the fruit part and the bit that we see although the main body of the fungi is either buried or is contained in its host."

Mike said there are about 4,000 different species of mushrooms and toadstools of which about 30 are lethal and at least another 30 edible and good to eat. A couple of hundred are edible but either not very tasty or too chewy and it is simply not known whether the remaining couple of thousand are edible or not.

"On the fungal foray, I take out a large group of people and we collect as much fungi as we can find and then we go back and I talk through what we have found," said Mike.

He will be hoping to find some shaggy ink caps, which look like a lawyer's wig and some penny buns - so named as they look like old fashioned penny buns. Both these types are edible although the puffballs, which have also been found at Bryngarw in the past, are definitely not edible.

"The autumn is the best time of year for finding fungi because of the weather conditions although it has been a bit dry for mushrooms lately," said Mike who regularly collects and eats mushrooms from woods and pastureland.

"They do have a much nicer taste than those which you buy in the supermarket and one of my favourites is the parasol mushroom which can be up to a foot across and has a lovely peppery taste. I like them best gently fried in butter and perhaps on a slice of toast."

Mike's fungal foray starts tomorrow at 10.30am and runs until noon. Admission is free with more details available on 01656 815995. There are two other fungal walks being held. The first is today at Cwmcarn Forest Drive at 1pm. Places need to be booked by calling 01495 272001. Next Saturday another fungal foray is being held at Dyffryn Gardens, St Nicholas, at 10.30am. Advance booking is advised as spaces are limited. Call 029 2059 3328 or visit Little Megan Collier, aged two, with a King Alfred's cake mushroom. Right, Mike Lawton hunting for mushrooms
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 3, 2009
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